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The Survivor

Overview

 

Nate Campbell lived a childhood straight out of a Charles Dickens book. He was put in foster care at age seven and lived in 15 different homes and attended the same number of schools. He was 24 and working as a box cutter when a co-worker saw him shadowboxing during a break and suggested he try boxing. Campbell kept working as a box cutter during all three years of his amateur career, and didn't turn pro until a month before his 28th birthday. To support himself and his wife and kidwho lived with his mother-in-lawCampbell worked installing stereo systems and slept on the front seat of his car. When he was lucky enough to get a job installing a system in a hotel, he was able to shower. In a match with Joel Casamayor in 2003, Campbell was 23-0 but still installing stereo systems. His story is inspiring, a textbook in how to survive and live out your dream. He never got bitter, and today talks of the beauty of life and living in the moment. Last year he beat three-belt holder Juan Diaz to finally win a world championship. He lost those belts on the scales Feb. 14 when he failed to make the 135-pound lightweight limit. He was unhappy about losing the belts, but worse things have happened to him. He is moving on. The determined fighter, now 36, won that fight with Ali Funeka, and is moving up to junior welterweight where he wants to challenge Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton.

HBO

Your victory over Ali Funeka had to be a bittersweet one, since you lost your championship belts by failing to make weight. What were you feeling after your victory was announced?

Nate Campbell

I was happy with the victory, that's all I cared about. I had to win to save my career; that was more important than the belts.

HBO

Did your efforts to lose the excess weight have any effect on you in the fight?

Nate Campbell

Yes it did. My body was no longer the same. It's gotten bigger. If you looked at Funeka, who was much taller, it was me who had the bigger, wider body. Some people say I didn't try to make weight. But for six hours before the weigh in I sat in a sauna, and shadowboxed in that sauna trying to make the weight.

HBO

You announced after the fight you're moving up to junior welterweight. Who at 140 pounds would you like to fight?

Nate Campbell

I want to fight the winner of the Pacquiao-Hatton fight. I want to fight all the guys at 140. I'm going to make a lot of noise and be in their faces. I feel confident I can become the top fighter in that division.

HBO

How do you think you'd do in the ring with Manny Pacquiao?

Nate Campbell

I would do strange things to him. I could outbox him and out-punch him. It would be a great fight.

HBO

You've come very far in life. As a child, you lived in 15 different foster homes and went to 15 different schools. What was that like for you, and how did it mold you into the person you are today?

Nate Campbell

I survived that by grit, and that has become part of my makeup. I moved quite often. I never really got used to living in one place. I never got into a comfort zone and I think that helped me as a boxer. I never in my life look for comfort. I live in the moment and know that no matter what happens; it is what it is. Life is beautiful and it is meant to be lived. Most foster kids suffer from separation anxiety. Losing my titles was like that for me.

"I would do strange things to Pacquiao. I could outbox him and out-punch him. It would be a great fight."

HBO

You were working as a box cutter in a Winn-Dixie supermarket warehouse on the graveyard shift at age 24 when a co-worker saw you shadowboxing during a break and suggested you try boxing. Tell us about that.

Nate Campbell

That was the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I would not have boxed if it wasn't for Jeff Hullett. He was the guy who saw me shadowboxing and told me I should use my talent as a boxer. He ran me out of the warehouse. I couldn't have written a better story than that. We still hang together, and as a matter of fact I am going to take him to lunch next week.

HBO

Before you turned to boxing and were working in the warehouse, what was your biggest dream in life?

Nate Campbell

I wanted to be a basketball player, but when that went south I really didn't dream about anything again until I started boxing. Back then, I figured I would just be a regular guy with a good job, which was what I had at Winn-Dixie. I was making $13 to $14 an hour, and saw myself retiring after 20 or 30 years with a pension. I loved my job, loved the guys I worked with. I never wanted to get out. Letting go of my job at Winn-Dixie was almost impossible. I worked there during my whole amateur career. When I turned pro, I worked at a lot of different jobs. I even owned my own company. We installed great stereo systems. I was putting the systems in for $30 or $40 and sleeping on the front seat of my 1978 Chevy Caprice Classic. If I got a stereo job at a hotel, I could shower. I was homeless. My wife and kid stayed with my mother-in-law.

HBO

You turned pro one month shy of your 28th birthday. In the beginning, did you ever imagine being where you are today?

Nate Campbell

Yeah I did. I thought I would be world champion, but didn't imagine I could be as prolific as I am. When I started in the gym at my age, I got a lot of funny looks. Everybody thought I was crazy, out of my mind.

HBO

You're known to be a big fan of the internet. What kind of places do you visit?

Nate Campbell

I visit all the sites, I go everywhere. I research everything.

HBO

What's the one thing in life that makes you the most happy?

Nate Campbell

My family is very, very valuable to me. I am blessed to be where I am in life. My family is with me all the time. When I lost money after (Joan) Guzman pulled out of that fight (September), I told my family everything was going to be okay, and they believed me.

HBO

What are you long term goals?

Nate Campbell

I want to be a commentator one day, so when I watch a fight, I don't watch it as a sport. I analyze it. I listen to what all the commentators have to say.

Nate Campbell

February 9, 2009